I used to like to say, to friends (who were always far more indulgent of the, OK, sometimes obnoxious personae, as my friend Ezra Pound would call them, that I would adopt from to time), “God I hate to be right.”
Well, the following doesn’t make me right, but it does substantiate (and give permission to believe… yeah, yeah, to me, OK?) part of what I said in my post yesterday about the more things are Papelbon, the more they remain Buckner. At least in Red Sox Nation [he said, shuddering, using a phrase that always makes his internal organs shrivel: think about it, if it’s a nation, how much would things be worse in the U.N. if they requested statehood recognition; trust me, that’s next, a lot of people who can’t pronounce the letter “r” and whose chief claim to mastery of skilled maneuvers is driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic while flipping the bird with one hand].
Here’s a link to an article, I believe it’s on-line only, as the latest print issue of “The Atlantic” has already appeared this month, and the Red Sox just ate and swallowed all of their young, their middle-aged, and their elderly, only two days ago. They’ve been delaminating for a month now, so this guy had that whole time to research and work the whole story up, so, like obituaries of terminally ill or extremely elderly celebrities, this just needed some final details and it was good to go on-line.
I even like the name of the article, “The Red Sox Weren’t Cursed, They Were Just Terrible.” Succinct. To the point. Mildly Vicious. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/n8Kcfo. And it’s far more analytical and informed than I could ever be. I turned my back on my baseball bona fides back when I was about ten or eleven, back when I had my own copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia (probably the first edition: I’m that old; I know at least that Norm Yeazer, my baseball coach and counselor at summer camp, and formerly of the Detroit Tigers organization, and who actually appeared at “the show” for 18 official times at bat—this is from memory, so I could be blowing the details—and so was memorialized in this big fat delicious tome that I used to peruse like it was Proust or, well, the Bible). I knew whatever there was worth knowing about the New York Yankees, whose temple, the original Yankee Stadium, was just a bus ride and a subway ride away in my native Bronx.
And I knew a great deal more about baseball, the greatest intricacy of which at the time, the so-called infield fly rule, I would explain to female adults to their perfect understanding, and I was nine.
I don’t recall ever, ever, ever that the Red Sox were a threat, or even ever to be paid attention to. Losers then, losers forever. I worried about the Athletics (they had been in Philadelphia; though I’m not nearly so old as to remember that) of Kansas City, and now, of course, and long since, of Oakland—after the great western diaspora of the largely Eastern and Mid-Western hegemony of the real major league teams, 16 in all, eight in each league.
You won the pennant by virtue of winning more games than any other team in the league. None of this wild-card and playoff bullshit. The season was 154 games. There was maybe a two or three day lay-off between the end of the season and the beginning of the World Series, so it started in September, and the crowds, who got to see World Series games in daylight, could sit in the stands in shirtsleeves and dresses. And games were broadcast over the PA systems in our public school classrooms—we had moved to Providence, much to my chagrin in many dimensions, in August of 1956. But even the principal of the John Howland School, where I sat in the third or fourth seat of the first row nearest the doors of Miss Toole’s sixth grade class, understood the importance of the game being pitched by a certain Mr. Donald Larsen to a certain Mr. Larry “Yogi” Berra on Monday, October 8, 1956. Hence he turned the latter innings being reported on the radio onto the school-wide PA system and we listened rapt, as Larsen pitched what is still the greatest achievement in major league baseball history, and still the only perfect game (27 batters come up to bat, none get on base, each is put out in turn) in World Series history.
Admitting the severe affinity (never mind sympathy—the Red Sox don’t even deserve pity, though they are, generally, pathetic) deficit I suffer, not only from not having been born in the greater Boston Metropolitan area, but growing up, until my tenth birthday in The Bronx, home of the Yankees (we knew them as “the Bronx Bombers;” I mean, it was still only, say ten, 15 years since the end of World War II), and then growing up further in that schizophrenic little berg, Providence, closer to Boston, but close enough to New York to cause, at worst, ambivalence about either team, and many cases of divided loyalties among packs of friends. Often, as we do when adults eschewing the conversational subject of religious belief, we would simply avoid somehow tipping our hand or our baseball cap so as to indicate a preference.
But everyone, and I mean everyone, was thrilled with that perfect game. Especially since it was won against those “Bums” (get it? “Bums” vs. “Bombers”… which way would you go?) from Brooklyn, who were far more talented year to year and far more a menace (along with, briefly, and improbably, the Cleveland Indians) than the Red Sox ever were, or, if you ask me, ever should be.
But don’t ask me. Ask Andrew Cohen, Chief Legal Analyst and Legal Editor of CBS News, who wrote this piece for “The Atlantic.” You gonna’ argue with a lawyer?